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Hungary: Defense Minister Optimistic About NATO Expansion

Prague, 4 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Hungarian Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti says Hungary expects to be among the first former Warsaw Pact countries to be invited to join NATO in July.

Keleti said in an interview today with RFE/RL that he views Hungary's chances of joining NATO "real and good." He said if all goes well, Hungary would be part of the military alliance in 1999.

Keleti, who is concluding a two-day official trip to Prague, said his country has satisfied many of the requirements to be part of NATO. These requirements, he said, include the establishment of a parliamentary democracy, market economy, civilian control over the military and respect for minority and human rights.

The defense minister, who discussed NATO expansion and other military matters with top Czech officials, said Hungary already has proved to be a reliable partner for NATO. Keleti noted that there are NATO-led bases in Hungary to support peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia. And he said a Hungarian medical unit participated in the Gulf War. It was, Keleti said, "our moral obligation."